Ugandans are most likely registering wrong temperature readings from non-contact infrared thermometers commonly known as temperature guns by using them on hands rather than the forehead, experts have warned.
With the coronavirus outbreak, most public places including hotels, churches, shopping malls, entertainment places and offices in and around Kampala city acquired temperature guns - deemed sufficient enough to fast-screen Covid-19 infections and cases.
However, the role of measuring the temperature is largely given to persons who had no formal training to use the gadgets. Persons infected with Covid-19 usually have high temperature readings.
“I see most of the people putting out their hands for their body temperature to be taken. This is wrong. The forehead is the right body part from which the temperature reading should be taken," says Simon Rukundo, head of temperature laboratory, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).
He emphasized that users of the temperature guns should strictly follow instructions given by the manufacturers in the user’s manual regarding how the instrument should be used, stored, cleaned and disinfected.
One of the solutions to misuse the guns is to frequently take it for re-calibration even beyond what the manufacturer recommends because there are many factors that affect their effectiveness.
Simon Rashana, the chief executive of Measurement Solutions says for example, that a manufacturer could say the temperature gun must be used at a certain range in centimetres, but that many users cannot tell between the distances. While a distance too long can give a wrong measurement, putting the thermometer too close can have other health effects due to radiation.
He says it is important to take the equipment to an expert for calibration before using it, and it is there that more instructions will be given or explained. UNBS urges all users of the non-contact infrared thermometers (NCIT) to ensure that they are calibrated and verified by UNBS.
The call was made during an online stakeholder engagement with importers and traders of the temperature guns and it follows complaints from the public regarding the use of uncalibrated infrared thermometers that pose a gap in Covid-19 screening.
Calibration of thermometers is the process of validating an infrared thermometer against a laboratory calibrated ‘master’ thermometer on a known temperature source, to ensure that measurements made by the NCIT are accurate.
When a thermometer gives measurements that are below the range of temperature it can measure, then it means it has a problem, which could result from overuse, battery charge level or breakage.